“This flow’r, whose fragrance tender / With sweetness fills the air, / Dispels with glorious splendor / The darkness everywhere. / True man, yet very God, / From sin and death he saves us / And lightens every load.”- Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming, LSB 359, v. 3
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”- Matthew 2:1-3 (ESV)
The annual tradition of Christmas Around the World at the Museum of Science and Industry began in 1942. The single tree was a wartime tribute to the Allies and also symbolized hope in uncertain times. In addition, staff newly decorated the tree every twelve days to represent countries fighting alongside America during World War II.
Today the display features a four-story, floor-to-dome Grand Tree. A forest of over 50 trees and displays surrounds that majestic tree. Decorated by volunteers, the trees depict holiday traditions from around the world. Hence, the trees and lights bring a world of holiday joy under one roof. This year Christmas Around the World runs from November 23rd through December 31, 2023.
Jesus, the Rose of Sharon, dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere. Yet, as John Ortberg writes in Who Is This Man? The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus (2012), Jesus entered the world with no dignity. Known as a mamzer – a child born to unmarried parents. And Jesus died with even less dignity.
However, the ancient reader viewed King Herod as the poster boy for greatness. Above all, the Roman Senate bestowed Herod with the title “King of the Jews” when Herod was only thirty-three years old. The greatest builder of his day, the massive stones of the temple he constructed remain visible over two thousand years later.
Furthermore, Pastor Ortberg notes, the definitive biography of Herod refers to him as Herold: King of the Jews, Friend of the Romans. Therefore, in contrast, it wasn’t a compliment to describe Jesus as the “friend of sinners.”
Most significantly, Pastor Ortberg takes special note of what happened when the lives of Jesus and Herod intersected:
“The magi from the East asked where they could find the one born king of the Jews (notice the title). Herod claimed to follow the religion of Israel, but it was the pagan magi who sought truth with respect and humility. There is something about this Jesus, even on his first day, that has a way of forcing people to declare where they stand.”
Certainly, this disturbed Herod — a major understatement. It’s clear why. Threatened by a child who dispels with glorious splendor. Child — a vivid contrast with king or great. Because, John points out, in both Greek and Latin the word children meant “not speaking.” For children lacked the dignity of reason.
In conclusion, Pastor Ortberg underscores, Jesus proclaimed that children need not work to become like Herod. Rather, Herod bore the responsibility to become like a child. Greatness comes to people who die to appearing great.
Herod failed miserably in seeing Jesus as the One who dispels with glorious splendor. As the Savior who touches our conscience and stills our selfishness. As a result, men who wear purple robes, glittering crowns, and gaudy titles begin to look ridiculous. Jesus, the child born in a manger, grows in stature.
Jesus announced a kingdom much different than that of Herod. A kingdom that confers blessing on the poor in spirit, the meek, and the persecuted. Jesus lightens every load.